Politico Cortadito fresh colada burns Gimenez

Politico Cortadito

Carlos Gimenez and lobbyists in China is same old thing, different language

Carlos Gimenez and lobbyists in China is same old thing, different language
Why does everyone have their panties up in a bunch over Miami-Dade Carlos Gimenez‘s trip to China with some of his favorite BFF lobbyists? I mean, the guy couldn’t go to France again this year for the umpteenth time. Been there, done that.

And he’s only got two more years to go before he is termed out in 2020. Might as well see the world with his wife and have taxpayers and lobbyists pay the tab.

But while the mayor’s travel habits are not necessarily surprising, this tour of Asia — 16 days for 49 people, including 19 (!!) county employees — is certainly and rightfully raising eyebrows.

To begin with, there is no way on Earth that, even if China had the best and cheapest rapid buses for us, we need 19 county people on that trip to make that determination. Sure, there were other opportunities. But we are talking about  This list includes Vice Mayor Ed Marquez, Commissioners Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Audrey Edmonson, Barbara Jordan and Jean Monestime as well as four department directors. Commissioner Diaz, who was a host as chairman of the International Trade Consortium, took two assistants (bet they were both pretty) while the other commissioners had to do with just one. Los pobres.

The trip was paid with both public and private funds (not that the private funds make it any better). Expenses for Gimenez, the commissioners and some staff were paid entirely by the “Trade Mission Center of the Americas Business Development Mission,” according to his spokestaff. But it looks like there were $10,000 contributions to that fund from each the PortMiami, the county aviation department and the water and sewer department for a total of $30,000, at least, in taxpayer funds.

Another $33,283 is being paid by the respective departments for expenses incurred by Aviation Director Lester Sola, PortMiami Director Juan Kuryla, Water and Sewer Director Kevin Lynskey and Transit Director Alice Bravo, whose estimated expenses are higher by at least $3,000 than the next guy’s. That’s all taxpayer money, too.

Now, before any of you crony apologists start talking about how China is a leading trade partner at PortMiami and the airport and represents a lot of potential growth for South Florida, let me remind you that none of that is contingent on 19 county employees being paid their taxpayer funded paychecks to spend two weeks touring five cities in Asia. In fact, nobody had to go to China, or Japan for that matter, to learn about how the the buses or airlines operate there — or, as Gimenez eventually learned, that the Chinese bus passenger system wouldn’t work here. This is 2018. There is video conferencing, virtual town halls and even facetime. Gimenez and company could virtually ride the rapid bus in China from the comfort of the 29th floor.

But this wasn’t really about that. This was about providing vacation memories and some graft opportunities to the Gimenez friends and family plan, including close friends Ralph Garcia Toledo, Marcelo Llorente and Jesse Manzano, three lobbyists and Gimenez campaign operatives who just coincidentally win bids for multi million dollar contracts. Garcia Toledo — who was also on the Paris trip (as well as Llorente) — even has a no-show, mostly clerical job at the water and sewer department for $200 an hour. Ladra can’t help but wonder if another job for the friends and family club was discussed over dim sum in Shanghai.
Did you happen to see Gimenez’s reaction when Univision’s Erika Carillo asked him about the presence of those very BFF lobbyists on the trip? Talk about looking guilty! He went on a tirade, raising his voice and pointing fingers. You have to see it. Thank the journalism gods for Carillo, who is doing what many in Miami’s mainstream media refuse to do — which is simply ask the right questions, no matter how awkward and no matter if the mayor or one of his mouthpieces threatens you with the loss of access.
This interview is fantastic. Someone in law enforcement has to watch it because Gimenez is sweating bullets.

Carillo also exposed that 30% of trip expenses was paid for by lobbyists and companies that do business with the county, like AECOM and Nova Consulting, to the tune of 30% of the costs, or $31,800 of the $92,350 tab. Hey, somebody had to pay for the $21,000 in estimated hotel costs.

In addition to the three Gimenez amigos other lobbyists in the delegation includedJose “Chino” Fuentes, his partner Jose Bermudez, Alex Heckler and Al Maloof, who all have pretty tight relationships with the mayor (Heckler has held fundraisers for him and Maloof used to employ his daughter-in-law). Also in the group was Wynwood property snatcher and developer Moishe Mana, who gave $7,500 for the trip (most lobbyists ponied up $2K) and who has already proposed a new trade show for Chinese apparel and textiles, which may need permits or subsidies from the county.

“Doesn’t this cause a bad perception,” Carillo asked the mayor on camera before he went off on her.

Yes, Erika, there is definitely a stink in the air. It is left there by lobbyists who pay for access to the mayor and also arm candy, showing prospective Chinese clients and prospect county contractors that they have the mayor’s ear should said Chinese clients need to hire a lobbyist. It is left there by the mayor himself who tells you that the company that paid for his trip wasn’t one of the ones that do business with the county (read: not yet anyway). And it is left there by the suspicion that there were secret negotiations taking place — especially now that we know the mayor has “confidential” discussions with potential bidders on important county projects like the new courthouse (more on that later).

And let’s not forget the stink left by a “trade mission” by Miami-Dade electeds to China, where human rights abuses are rampant — this protest for political prisoners pictured left happened in Beijing about a week after they left — and businesses cannot act independently without the explicit approval of the government, which is a little jarring and a lot hypocritical. This is the very same county that supports banning businesses that do trade in Cuba and Venezuela for the very same reasons.

According to Human Rights Watch: “More than three decades after pledging to “reform and open up,” there are few signs the Chinese Communist Party intends to change its authoritarian posture. Under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, who will remain in power until 2022 and possibly beyond, the outlook for fundamental human rights, including freedoms of expression, assembly, association and religion, remains dire.”

Why is China different? Is it because we don’t have a Chinese American on the commission? Is it because we don’t have a large Chinese American voting base?
Nobody who has been on this Asia trip has the moral authority ever again to vote against Odebrecht or anyone else because they have business partners in Cuba or in Venezuela. And yes, I am talking to you, Pepe Diaz.

Which brings us to yet another reason why at least the China leg of this trip was a waste of time. There are some commissioners — Chairman Esteban Bovo as well as Rebeca Sosa, Javier Souto and Joe Martinez — who would not support any business with any Communist Chinese train manufacturer that doesn’t respect human rights and probably employs 12-year-olds. Ladra suspects that whoever replaces Commissioner Bruno Barreiro — who resigned the other day so he could focus on the congressional race he is going to lose in November — will also vote against a Chinese project as would Commissioners Xavier Suarez andDaniella Levine-Cava for the same reasons. That means an anti-Chinese commission majority.

But, again, none of this really matters for the mayor and his pals who are just on a mission to fill their scrapbooks with as many global monument pics as possible. Next stop is probably Qatar. Gimenez met last week with His Highness Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of the State of Qatar and the mayor showed him his own kingdom from his perch on the 29th floor (photograph to the left).

“We discussed investment opportunities in Miami-Dade County and ways to expand the relationship between our respective communities,” Gimenez posted on Facebook.
It doesn’t matter that His Highness the sheikh tolerates and likely promotes the abuse and exploitation of migrant workers and that poets in Qatar are sentenced to 15 years in prison when their prose is critical of the ruling family.

What matters is that Gimenez doesn’t have that stamp in his passport.

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